Zidane defends Bale after latest injury set-back
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane defended Gareth Bale on Saturday after the Welshman picking up another injury and also said Eden Hazard is close to a return.
Bale will miss Madrid’s La Liga game against Real Valladolid on Sunday after he sprained his ankle during Madrid’s Copa del Rey win over Unionistas de Salamanca on Wednesday. Bale had opened the scoring in a 3-1 victory.
It is his third injury this season. Bale spent just over a month out before Christmas with calf and thigh problems.
He missed Real Madrid’s Spanish Super Cup triumph in Saudi Arabia through illness earlier this month and the game against Unionistas was his first match back.
“When he is available, which is the most important thing, he is fine,” Zidane said in a press conference on Saturday.
“The pity is that the other day he hurt his ankle and he is now unavailable.
“He is as unhappy about it as anyone, he would like to be with us, to train and play, but it’s a small thing. I hope to see him back with us on Monday.”
Bale’s relationship with Zidane has been tense in the past and he came close to leaving Real Madrid last summer, before a move to China fell through.
The 30-year-old is not expected to be sold mid-season but a departure could suit everyone in the summer.
Asked if he was tired of defending Bale, Zidane said: “The other day he scored. I will always defend my players. They are my players, they train every day, they fight for each other.
“There is a good dynamic, all the players are desperate to wear the badge of Real Madrid. They all have their own history but I don’t see that as a bad thing. It is true Gareth has had some injuries and you can’t do anything about that.
“You can think what you want but when I am with him, what he wants is to be available, to be with the team.”
Bale’s recovery could coincide with a return for Hazard, who has also endured an injury-interrupted season since his move from Chelsea last summer.
The Belgian sustained a fracture in his foot in November but has begun light training, meaning he could feature in the derby against Atletico Madrid on February 1.
“I cannot say when he will be back but he has started to touch the ball again,” Zidane said. “His progress is good, he no longer feels pain. Starting Monday, he will start working individually with more ballwork.”
Hazard missed almost a month at the start of the season with a hamstring strain before injuring his foot on November 26 against Paris Saint-Germain.
Real Madrid are unbeaten in 18 games and sit second in La Liga, behind Barcelona on goal difference.
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